San Francisco Construction Reveals Buried Maritime Treasures

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — A new map is revealing some of San Francisco’s buried treasures with an updated view of the dozens of gold-rush era ships that lie below the city’s streets.

While buildings rise across the city, the interest in what’s under them is skyrocketing as construction crews uncover more and more buried ships beneath the surface.

“We have a really interesting exhibit about the buried ships underneath downtown San Francisco,” said Lynn Cullivan with the National Historic Maritime Museum. “There’s always new information, always something new coming up. So we’re redoing the map!”

The old map of buried ships under downtown was first published 54 years ago in 1963. The museum says many ships have been added, including one site no one expected.

“A ship wrecking yard. Kinda where the ship would go to die,” explained Cullivan. “Basically, you’d burn a Ship down and take the metal off of it.”

The ancient ship demolishing yard operated near the intersection of spear and Folsom streets. Folks walk and drive over where deep below the wreckage of many of the ships still remain.

“You can’t always excavate all the artifacts on all the ships, but at least they document them,” said Cullivan. “What they are, who they are, and in a kind of way, preserves them.”

The California gold rush created the ship rush. Ships from all over the world carried miners full of gold fever. Captains abandoned ships by the thousands.

Modern downtown San Francisco is built on top of that legacy. The abandoned ships are everywhere.

“Two of those lost ships are buried right here underneath this intersection, the Fame and the Francis Ann,” said Cullivan.

The new map is still being finalized. It is expected to be published sometime in the fall.

The museum says that with construction being what it is here in the city, there’s no telling what will be discovered next.

More from Don Ford
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